L’agrivoltaic (or agrivoltaism) is a technique that consists in combining the production of renewable energy and agriculture. It is a way to fightartificialization of the soil. It also works for energy transitionwhile ensuring a high agricultural yield.
Could this technique therefore constitute the agriculture of tomorrow? What are its advantages, challenges and future prospects?
Agrivoltaic was born in the 80s. Since the 2000s it has been implemented on a large scale in Asia and then in Europe. There are several agrivoltaic techniques. The most common is to cover some crops (fruit and vegetables, vines, etc.) with a removable roof consisting of photovoltaic panels. The goal is to transform solar energy into electricity.
These photovoltaic solar panels have a dual use. They protect crops from bad weather or sun exposure. And they also avoid the artificialization of hectares of land intended exclusively for the installation of photovoltaic panels.
Although the agricultural sector is still in its infancy, its development looks promising. The France Agrivoltaisme association was thus born from the companies Sun’Agri and REM Tec. These companies are the pioneers of the industry. Their goal is to raise awareness of this practice and develop it in a sustainable way.
The large-scale spread of agriculture could in fact contribute to the achievement of the objectives set in Multi-year energy programs (PPE)intended to control the French energy policy. And engage more seriously in the energy transition. Knowing that in France, the renewable energies currently represent 16.3% energy consumption.
The agrivoltaic has many advantages. The panels help protect crops from sun, rain, frost and hail. When periods of drought occur, the soil benefits from sufficient shade to limit the rise in soil temperature. This allows you to avoid excessive losses, while reducing the water consumption of the land.
Therefore, the experiments have shown that the agrivoltaic can Reduce your water consumption about 20%. The presence of panels allows to reduce evapotranspiration (i.e. the loss of water from plants). Protected, the plants see their water needs reduced by up to 34%. Other experiments also revealed that agricultural yield was higher in agrivoltaic projects, compared to conventional crops.
The photovoltaic panels installed in the fields, then, allow the production of electricity, without the arable land being artificial (i.e. transformed) for the sole development of these panels.
Finally, taking into account the quantity of water and the need for insolation of the plants to determine the inclination of the panels, the quality of the crops suffers.
In short, agriculture can improve agricultural yields. At the same time, it enhances the territory and develops renewable energies through the production of photovoltaic electricity.
In recent years, the desire to develop renewable energy within the agricultural sector has grown, especially since the 2015 energy transition law set specific objectives in this area (in particular: increasing the share of renewable energy for 32% of gross final energy consumption in 2030). It is within this framework that photovoltaics should develop.
On February 10, President Emmanuel Macron also announced that he plans to exceed the goal of 100 GW of photovoltaic capacity in France by 2050, in particular by developing agrovoltaic projects.
In this regard, we can once again mention the program Sole Agri. The program has been developing energy transition solutions for several years to address agricultural issues. The principle: install photovoltaic panels on two levels. The lower floor is dedicated to the plant and the upper floor to the production of electricity. This pioneering farmer program benefits from state support.
Instead the latest IPCC report invites us to develop renewable energies as much as possible and to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels, and that the need to move to a more virtuous model of agriculture is becoming urgent, photovoltaics could be one of the possible solutions.
Since 2017, farmers wishing to experiment with this technology can apply for grants for the development of the agricultural sector. And this in the context of the announcement innovation of the State managed by Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE).
Certification and labeling projects are also underway to develop agriculture and strengthen the confidence of professionals in the sector in this new solution. For its part, theEcological transition agency (ADEME) is working on agrovoltaic legislation. The area is still unmarked.
Finally, the Senate, which is currently working on the development and sustainability of the agricultural sector in France, proposes that agricultural projects benefit from the aid of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), which is currently not the case due to their innovative character. Such aid could help the sector to develop rapidly.
Obviously the agricultural sector is one of the solutions to preserve the agricultural sector from the harmful consequences of global warming: drought, bad weather, freezing … If obviously it is not the only tool available in terms of ecological transition, energy and sustainable development, it arises as a solution for the future, which it is now up to the government to develop over the next few years.
However, it is important to underline that agriculture is still only at the experimental stage (at least in Europe). The performance of this technology, especially in the long term, is therefore not guaranteed, even if the first results are very encouraging.
Some farmers also fear that farming is more profitable for energy production than for the crops themselves. The development of this system in the years to come should undoubtedly allow us to have a more precise idea of the question.